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3 Signs It’s Time for a Friendship Break-Up

Do you feel worse or better after spending time with "that" friend?

The friendships we establish in life are often as unique as the people we befriend, however there are three categories into which most of our friendships tend to fall: activity friends; convenience friends; and intimate friends. Each group of friends has their own unique role they play in our lives; but our intimate friends hold the most sacred and trusted space of all. These are the ones to whom we give the most and expect the most in return. Yet even these relationships can falter along the way.

To Break-Up or Make-Up?

Not all friends are meant to be “friends for life” and sometimes relationships may begin to lose their charm. This may due to changes in a friend’s behavior and priorities. It may be due to changes in your own life role or identity. It may be just that the two of you have outgrown the relationship.

The Deciding Factors

Once you begin to question the value of a particular relationship, ask yourself the following three questions.

  1. Do I avoid calls, ignore texts, or frequently cancel out on plans with this friend?
  2. Do I feel better or worse after spending time with this friend?
  3. Do I ever find myself wondering how I ever ended up in a friendship with this person in the first place?

Let your avoidance behaviors be your guide. If spending time together leads you to regret, this should be a big red flag that should be heeded. Lastly, if you find yourself wondering how you ever got into a relationship in the first place, then chances are that you already realize that it is time to start figuring out how you can get out of that relationship!

Breaking Points may Vary

All of us have different breaking points in a relationship and all of us value different qualities more than others. While you might have a friend who is reliable only in the way that she reliable cancels out on every planned get-together, you may tolerate that behavior because she was there for you when you were in a dark place and wrestling with depression. Others might have friends who are constantly doing a “Rescue Request,” where they need you to drop what you’re doing to help them out. If you find fulfillment in being a hero and going the extra mile for a friend, then you might actually enjoy this dynamic.

When the Breach is Reached

To help make the break-up outcome as clean as possible, you may want to follow the following seven suggestions when letting go of the relationship:

1. Do not let the toxic relationships drag out too long.

2. Weigh your words carefully when ending a relationship.

3. If it is likely that you will still run into the former friend in the neighborhood, at work, on campus, or at the gym, make sure that you end the relationship on as positive a note as possible.

4. Technology issues may need consideration – unfriending, blocking email or Twitter accounts, etc. may need to be handled.

5. Make the break-up about you and your needs, not friends and their wrongs.

6. Acknowledge the benefits that the relationship has offered over time and express appreciation for the positive role the friend has played in your life in the past.

7. Do not allow yourself to dwell on negative thoughts about revenge or punishment of the former friend. Researchers have found that this negatively affects your own well-being.

Once you begin to question the value of a friendship or begin to feel that you are investing more than you are receiving in the relationship, asking yourself the three questions above should help you figure out the current worth of the friendship. If you answer “yes” to the three questions above, it is time to get honest with yourself and your friend. Putting your own needs first and bringing the friendship to an end may be the ideal way for you to be your own best friend.

Adapted from the forthcoming book, Toxic Friendships: Knowing the Rules and Dealing with the People who Break Them (